Named for its distinctive white upper lip, the Caribbean white-lipped frog (Leptodactylus albilabris) is a medium-sized frog species with a relatively slender body, long limbs and unwebbed toes (2)(3)(4).
The body of the Caribbean white-lipped frog varies from greenish-yellow to greenish- or yellowish-brown, almost black, and has dark spots or stripes. There may also be a yellowish to dull orange line down the middle of the back. The underparts are usually white to creamy yellow, sometimes with darker marks, and the thighs are striped. The Caribbean white-lipped frog has a black stripe between the eye and the tip of the snout, as well as between the eye and the shoulder (2)(3). As in most other members of the Leptodactylidae family, the pupil of the eye is horizontally flattened (4). The digits of this species do not bear discs or pads at the tips (2)(3).
The call of the Caribbean white-lipped frog is a repetitive “pink, pink, pink” (2)(3), although it sometimes also produces a short trill (3).
The diet of the Caribbean white-lipped frog consists of a variety of invertebrates, including ants, beetles, flies, moths, caterpillars, spiders and snails (2). It is active year-round (7) and breeding may take place at any time of the year (8). Breeding male Caribbean white-lipped frogs call both day and night from the ground, aquatic vegetation, beneath rocks or logs, or from shallow burrows in the mud (1)(2)(3)(7)(9). This species also has an intriguing method of communication in which the male pounds the vocal sac against the ground when calling, producing vibrations in the ground which can be detected by nearby males. These signals are thought to be used by males to judge their distances to rivals (3)(4)(9)(10).
The Caribbean white-lipped frog lays around 75 to 200 eggs in a foam nest, usually placed in a shallow hollow in the soil and covered by a stone, vegetation or earth (2)(3)(4)(8). The eggs are yellow (2) and hatch after about four days (8). The tadpoles are brown, and are usually washed into nearby pools by the first rains, typically before they reach around 1.3 centimetres in length, and before metamorphosis occurs (2)(3)(8).
The Caribbean white-lipped frog is found in Puerto Rico and on the nearby islands of Vieques and Culebra, as well as in the north-eastern Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands (1)(2)(5).
A semi-aquatic species, the Caribbean white-lipped frog typically inhabits streams, ditches, marshes, muddy drains, gutters and irrigated fields (1)(2)(3)(6), in forest, open country and even urban areas (1). It often hides under rocks, ledges, plants, logs or leaf litter (2)(3), and has been recorded up to elevations of around 1,030 metres (1)(2).
Although it only occupies a relatively small part of the Caribbean, the Caribbean white-lipped frog is a common and adaptable species and is not currently considered globally threatened (1). However, local populations may face a number of potential threats. For example, in parts of its range coastal wetlands are at risk from the predicted rise in sea level due to global climate change (7). This species may also be affected by competition with introduced amphibians such as the Cuban treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) and the cane toad (Bufo marinus) (11)(12).
The Caribbean white-lipped frog is thought to be declining in the British Virgin Islands, mainly due to habitat destruction and invasive species (11). Similarly, although it is still abundant and widespread in the U.S. Virgin Islands, it may face potential threats there from habitat loss, pollution, and predation by introduced species such as mongooses (6)(12).
One of the main conservation measures recommended for the Caribbean white-lipped frog is further study into its population trends (11). This species occurs in all the protected areas of Puerto Rico (1).
General conservation priorities for amphibian species in the British Virgin Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands include setting aside conservation areas and protecting key sites, minimising any impacts of developments, controlling invasive species and improving public education programmes. It will also be important to monitor species such as the Caribbean white-lipped frog to ensure that population declines are not occurring (6)(11)(12).
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Platenberg, R.J. and Boulon Jr, R.H. (2006) Conservation status of reptiles and amphibians in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Applied Herpetology, 3: 215-235.
Rios-López, N. (2008) Effects of increased salinity on tadpoles of two anurans from a Caribbean coastal wetland in relation to their natural abundance. Amphibia-Reptilia, 29(1): 7-18.
Dent, J.N. (1956) Observations on the life history and development of Leptodactylus albilabris. Copeia, 1956(4): 207-210.
Narins, P.M. (1990) Seismic communication in anuran amphibians. BioScience, 40(4): 268-274.
Lewis, E.R., Narins, P.M., Cortopassi, K.A., Yamada, W.M., Poinar, E.H., Moore, S.W. and Yu, X.L. (2001) Do male white-lipped frogs use seismic signals for intraspecific communication? American Zoologist, 41(5): 1185-1199.
Perry, G. and Gerber, G.P. (2006) Conservation of amphibians and reptiles in the British Virgin Islands: status and patterns. Applied Herpetology, 3: 237-256.
Platenberg, R.J., Hayes, F.E., McNair, D.B. and Pierce, J.J. (2005) A Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Division of Fish and Wildlife, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Available at: http://fw.dpnr.gov.vi/wild/Docs/FinalPlan/TOC.htm
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